The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) recognized ABS-CBN reporter Chiara Zambrano’s coverage of the West Philippine Sea.

Zambrano shared in her Twitter account a photo of the plaque and a photo while receiving the award from AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana.

The award recognized Zambrano’s “valuable support and active participation” in the AFP’s mandate of “upholding the national interests and sovereign rights of the Republic of the Philippines in the vicinity of the West Philippine Sea.”

“In her faithful commitment to the tenets of responsible journalism, she has raised public awareness and patriotism on the recent sovereign incursions by Chinese Coast Guard and People’s Liberation Army Navy inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines,” the plaque read.

“Sobejana says they acknowledge the role of journalism in raising public awareness of issues,” Zambrano tweeted.

On April 8, Zambrano and her crew travelled across various reefs and shoals in the West Philippine Sea onboard a Filipino civilian vessel close to the mainland of Palawan to investigate how Filipino fisherfolk are coping since a large number of Chinese vessels have been spotted in the Filipino fisherfolks’ former fishing grounds.

The Chinese Navy patrolling the area deployed two missile attack craft to chase down the Filipino vessel, the first such recorded on camera since China laid claim to West Philippine Sea. AFP spokesperson Marine Major General Edgard Arevalo reacted saying “While we understand the journalists’ insatiable desire to be ahead in reporting, we appeal to them to exercise prudence in the course of their job.”

“The AFP is concerned with the safety and well-being of our Kababayans that we have been forthright and transparent in our reporting about the situation in our EEZ,” Arevalo added.

He also pointed out that the AFP has “accommodated” members of the media through its water and air assets so the media can be protected “while in the practice of their profession.”

After watching footage of the incident provided by ABS-CBN News, AFP Western Command commander Vice Admiral Ramil Roberto Enriquez said the Chinese vessels were only “observing” the Filipino vessels.

“Kung talagang hinabol kayo no’n, madali niya kayong inabutan… Inoobserbahan lang kayo no’n,” Enriquez said in an interview by ABS-CBN News.

Video of the incident showed thru the GPS tracking how fast the Filipino vessel sailed to evade the China coast guard which tailed them for almost an hour.

Enriquez said that since 2019, the China Coast Guard did not chase away any Filipino vessel in the Ayungin Shoal. He suspects that the China Coast Guard might have suspected something amiss after the Filipino skipper did not respond to the radio messages of the Chinese.

“If we follow the dictum of ‘flight is an admission of guilt,’ bigla kayong umalis eh,” Enriquez said. – Rommel F. Lopez